New technologies are meant to encourage sun protection. Are they useful?

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We ve written recently on America s lackadaisical use of sunscreen as well as the increasing rates of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma, reported by the CDC. Clearly, more must be done to educate the public on the importance of skin protection, and when and how often sunscreen should be applied to avoid skin damage. New technology in the form of smartphone apps and wearable devices is designed to do exactly that, a recent New York Times article reports.

One of these is JUNE marketed as a beauty coach that will help you fight a major source of skin-aging: UV. JUNE is a wearable bracelet-like device which contains UV sensors that monitor sun exposure throughout the day. The device pairs with a free iOS app to provide a daily sun forecast detailing the expected UV index, a measure of the expected risk of UV radiation from the sun on a scale from 0 to sun-scorched 15, as well as whether to pack sunscreen, sunglasses or a hat. The whole package sells for $129.

There are also similar yet more affordable devices on the market. Disposable wristbands or stickers, such as UVSunSense or Sunburn Alert, change color to signal that it is time to reapply sunscreen. However, these stickers can easily fall off when swimming or even sweating.

And for those who want to forgo a wearable device, there are a variety of UV-warning smartphone apps available. For example, sunZapp, which is funded in part by the National Cancer Institute, combines specific location-based information (such as the hour-by-hour UV Index forecast) with the user s personal information (including eye color, skin tone, age, and sun-sensitive medications). Information is then provided as to how often the user should reapply sunscreen. The app is available for free, or you can buy an upgraded version for $1.99.

While all of these available technologies likely have potential to help people protect themselves from the sun, the real question is, will people really use them? A January study from JAMA Dermatology revealed mixed results on the effect of such apps and wearable devices.

We think reminding you to use sunscreen, cover up, and educating you as to why it s a good idea is enough, but most of the time, that s not the case, said Dr. Joseph Kvedar, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard University.